In conversation with Shih-Li Kow

Our readers would like to know your inspiration (or story, if any) behind Hit and Run.

The antagonist in the story was a minor character in my book, The Sum of Our Follies, where Nain appeared as an eccentric, tragi-comic caricature. I sometimes felt that I had done her a disservice by not telling her story fully. This writerly guilt stayed with me, and seven years after the book was published, I decided to develop Nain’s back story. This resulted in a set of short stories and among them was Hit and Run

Tell us more about your creative process in general.

It’s pretty mundane. Involves lots of scribbling in notepads and self-editing. Rewriting is a major part of the process that I obsess over. I work at home, try to keep interruptions at bay and have pretty much sworn off the TV. I avoid discussing ideas, plots or work-in-progress projects because I feel that the talking replaces the doing and takes my focus away from the real work. Mostly, it’s solitary and the active, engaged quiet is what I love most about the writing process.

Do you have any creative influences? What do you like the most about their work? Does it have a discernible effect on your writing?

There are too many to name, really, but several books came to me at the right time and made a big impact. The Life of Pi showed me the possibilities of fiction by bringing together big themes, language, play and imagination. This was probably the book that converted me from reader to reader/writer-wannabe. Ted Chiang’s Exhalation renewed my interest in SF in a big way. Stylistically, I think I accumulate influences from every author that I have ever read. So, what I end-up with is probably a mash-up that I try to control but is still changing.

Are there any creative genres, forms, themes, techniques etc. you wish you could employ in your writing which you haven’t yet?

I want to try them all! Right now, I’m interested in flash, SF, CNF, travel writing, and mixed-genre work.

What are you looking forward to in your creative career?

I’m quite excited about the upcoming French translation of my new collection, Bone Weight and Other Stories, soon to be published by Editions Zulma. I’d love to get more reading done next year. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to in recent years and I’m feeling malnourished. I’m looking forward to time and space to continue writing in hope that my books will reach more readers. 

Shih-Li Kow is the author of a short story collection, Ripples and Other Stories and a novel, The Sum of Our Follies. Her work has appeared in Quarterly West, Mud Season Review, Short Fiction Journal, The Temz Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2023.